Pennsylvania contributions to the Republican Governors Association queried
The Morning Call reports that US land casino owner Sheldon Adelson could come under fire for a dodgy-looking political contribution deal in Pennsylvania, where Adelson's Las Vegas Sands land gambling empire has an outpost in Bethlehem.
Under Pennsylvania state law land casino owners and key managers are prohibited from donating to state political candidates, executive-level state employees and political groups like the Republican Governors Association.
The Morning Call reports that a month after it became apparent that Pennsylvanian lawmakers were considering the intrastate legalisation of online gambling earlier this year, Adelson donated a million dollars to the RGA, which immediately transferred the money to the party's state Political Action Committee.
The PAC then donated $1.6 million to Republican Governor Tom Corbett's re-election campaign in Pennsylvania – the largest single contribution it has received.
When interested parties started asking questions about the donations, the RGA said that Adelson had not influenced its distribution of the money, and Las Vegas Sands senior executive Andy Abboud denied that the donation had been intended for Governor Corbett's campaign.
Confusing the issue further, Las Vegas Sands communications exec Ron Reese explained that the RGA transfer to the RGA Pennsylvania 2014 PAC was a mistake.
"We made it crystal clear from the beginning that any contributions that we made could not be allocated to Pennsylvania," Reese told the Philadelphia Daily News.
RGA spokesman Jon Thompson backed his opposite number at Sands, saying that Adelson did not direct that his donation go to Corbett or give any other instructions on the use of his money.
The RGA decides how its donations are to be used, he said.
Barry Kauffman, a director of the good government advocacy group Common Cause Pennsylvania, remained sceptical, but conceded:
"Unless someone spills the goods, we'll never know if Sheldon Adelson's money was actually ever intended to come here."
The Democrats were quick to jump on the story, with spokesperson Beth Melena commenting:
"Corbett tries to convince Pennsylvania that he's cleaned up Harrisburg. Corbett's willing to accept money from any source in an attempt to hide his disastrous record."
Under Pennsylvania laws, either the state Gaming Control Board or the Pennsylvania Department of State has the power to investigate complaints on the casino campaign donation ban. Neither agency would say whether a complaint had been filed against Corbett, the RGA or Adelson.
Corbett campaign manager Mike Barley said Wednesday that there was nothing wrong with the donation from the PAC to the Corbett campaign, pointing out that the Republican PAC has more than $10 million to give.
But he indicated that the Republican governors and the PAC are making a changes aimed at correcting the situation.
"They are correcting it," he said, without elaborating further.
The Morning Call notes that following the money trail shows that records on the contribution from the PAC to Corbett do not mention Adelson or Sands.
The publication notes that it is not just Republicans who are shuffling money around for electoral purposes; earlier this year Democratic Party governor-candidate Katie McGinty had to return a campaign contribution of $36,500 from a PAC who's main donor is a local businessman.
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